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Small versions of houseplants beat heat indoors

July 7, 2012

David Nagel
MSU Extension Service

Wayne Wells
MSU Extension Service

Leila Kelly
MSU Extension Service

With temperatures soaring into the upper 90’s this weekend, it is just too hot to be out for long in the garden. So, stay inside and garden. All gardeners have at least a few houseplants that remain in the house even during the summer. If you are one of these houseplant folks, we have even more choices now, especially if your available indoor growing space is limited. Many common houseplants have miniature versions that perform just like the big boys but take up less space. Below is a list of plants by light exposure for your indoor gardening pleasure. You can enjoy your plants and stay cool indoors.
 
South-facing windows

Living Stones-Lithops spp. These plants are 1-2 inches and look like little pebbles in shades of green, brown, pink, and purple.
Fond of fuchsias? How about ‘Tom Thumb,’ ‘Buttons and Bows,’ or ‘Little Jewel.’ The flower size is reduced, but the quantity of blooms is not. Plus, mini fuchsias are more likely to bloom in winter, when you need something colorful close by.
Pelargonium ‘Grey Sprite’ is a 6-8-inch fancy geranium with red flowers above grayish leaves with pink-tinged white borders.
Passiflora citrina is a 1-2-foot passionflower with a vining habit and lemon yellow flowers.
 
East and west-facing windows

The teddy bear vine, Cyanotis kewensis remains 8-10 inches and makes a dense mound of felted triangular chocolate-toned leaves.
Begonia ‘Small Change’ is a small (3-6-inch) rhizomatous begonia with tiny red-backed platinum leaves.
The emerald ripple peperomia, P. caperata forms a 10-inch mound of metallic green foliage.
Fittonia verschaffeltii, the nerve plant, is only 8-10 inches and forms a creeping mound of dark, pink-veined leaves.
 
North-facing windows

Hedera helix ‘Itsy Bitsy,’ the miniature bird’s foot ivy is only 6-10 inches and makes small bush mounds of tiny dark green pointed leaves.
Spreading clubmoss, Selanginella kraussiana, forms a 1-2-inch dense, creeping mat of tiny leaves.
Doodia media, the rasp or hacksaw fern remains 6-12 inches tall. Rosettes of narrow fronds start pink and then turn dark green.
Nephrolepsis cordifolia ‘Duffii’ is a lemon button fern that has small round leaves in pairs on upright fronds 8-10 inches tall.
 Check your local garden center or nursery for these plants or check mail order plant nurseries online.

Chinch bugs love St. Augustine lawns

Hot summer days are ideal for St. Augustinegrass lawns to get healthy from any winter injury or spring diseases but keeping a close watch for chinch bugs is a must as they love St. Augustinegrass lawns. The adults of this destructive insect are only about 1/5 of an inch long. They are black with what appears to be a white X across their backs where their wings fold over. The immature nymphs may be pink to brown with a single white line across their backs.

Chinch bugs are somewhat unique in that they prefer hot sunny areas of the lawn over shade so their injury symptoms generally appear in open front lawn areas first. Injury symptoms to the turf are a subtle yellowing of the leaf blades, thinning of the canopy and eventual death of the turf under extreme insect pressure
To scout for these tiny insects in your lawn you will need to part the turf canopy to the soil surface along a line where there is a change from damaged yellowing turf to healthy green turf. They move rather quickly, so keep an alert eye for their scurrying back into the turf.

Another way to scout for chinch bugs is by cutting both ends from a large coffee can, twisting it into the turf a couple of inches until it will hold water, then filling it with soapy water. In a few minutes the chinch bugs, if present, will begin swimming on the surface. Carbaryl, cyfluthrin, lambda-cyhalothrin and permethrin are a few of the labeled insecticides for their control.

While chinch bugs prefer St. Augustinegrass lawns, other turf species may also be encountering insects now such as fall armyworms, white grubs, billbugs, and sod webworms.

To learn more about these insects, their injury symptoms, how to locate and identify them, and insecticides for their control refer to extension publication #2331 — Control of Insect Pests in and Around the Home Lawn. This publication is also available from your local Extension office. This publication can be downloaded from the Extension web at http://www.MSUcares.com.

Temperatures in the upper nineties and above one hundred are hard on plants, even those we consider heat tolerant. Water is the key factor in plant management of heat. Plants cool themselves through transpiration the same way we cool ourselves through perspiration. No water means no cooling. Okra is a great indicator plant for when to water. It is easy to notice the big leaves wilt when the plant runs out of water.

High temperatures also speed up the growth and ripening of vegetables and fruit. The cucumber that used to take seven days to grow to harvest size now only takes four and a half days. This means picking tomatoes more than once a week and picking squash and okra every day rather than every other day.

High temperatures are also hard on gardeners. Try to work in the garden in the morning or evening and stay out of the direct sunlight in the middle and afternoon parts of the day. Water is also the key factor for people. Be well hydrated before you go and keep a water source handy while in the garden.

Kelly, Nagel and Wells are affiliated with the Mississippi State University Extension Service. Article provided by the Oktibbeha County Extension Service; for more information call 662-323-5916.

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